“…every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour…”
1 Cor 3:8
Don’t you sometimes feel that you are working, working, working and there is little reward for your efforts? It can be rather discouraging, can’t it? You work hard to be a good parent and something awful happens. You try to be patient with family members and someone pushes your buttons. Other people in your life pass responsibility for issues onto you as if you are the source of all the problems in the world.
The other day, I was driving down my favorite road (yes, I have a favorite road…Dickson Mill Road in Harding). It’s long, winding, and very isolated. There is a brook that runs through a field on the left and pretty farms on the right. When the weather is nice, I sometimes ride my horse through secret paths in the woods that parallel the road. It’s a road that makes me feel happy…good memories, especially the first time I went riding there with my neighbors and they didn’t warn me about the unexpected “jumps” ahead of us around the curve in the path. My Quarter Horse, Levi, cleared them…no problem…while I barely hung on, “grabbing mane” so I wouldn’t fall…as I usually do! Talk about an adrenaline rush. Ahhhhh, good times.
Unfortunately, on this particular day, this winding road was also covered in ice…something I had not realized when I started my journey. With the mounds of snow on either side of the two lane road, it had turned into a one and a half lane road. And my car stinks in the snow and ice. Apparently a car coming the other way did not know the poor driving conditions on the road either for the driver was trying to do a K turn in the middle of the road and at a curve.
I wasn’t driving fast (as I am known to do) because of the ice and I was able to slow my car down. But my face must have shown my annoyance at the poor decision making of this man. Fifteen feet behind him was a driveway. Ten feet before him was another. There were two very good choices for turning around. Instead, he chose to turn around at a very tight spot…on a patch of ice…in the middle of the road and at a curve. And when I approached, I had to slow down, praying that my car would stop.
What did he do?
He gave me one of those annoyed hand shakes. You know the kind…when the person scowls and waves their hands as if saying, “What are you, an idiot?”
I was stunned. In hindsight, I don’t know why I was so shocked. I’ve been seeing more and more of this behavior from people in recent days…weeks…years. It’s not just the weather, either. It’s an attitude that makes my heart weep. So many people blame others for their woes and problems when, if they examined their own actions, they might be surprised to see what they have done to contribute to (or even cause!) the situation.
I see this attitude everywhere…in adults and in children, including my own: the inability to take responsibility for their actions and deal with the consequences.
- Children sulking because they did not get what they wanted after misbehaving or being disrespectful.
- Students asking for extra credit to make up for poor grades when they didn’t do the work in the first place.
- Parents blaming the school system for their children’s performance (or lack thereof).
- Patients accusing the doctors for their illnesses and duration of treatment.
- Employees questioning why they didn’t get a raise when they gave less than 100% of their effort.
- Owners of companies wondering why morale is so low when they have unfair business practices (such as laying off people before throwing lavish holiday parties or announcing no annual raises to employees while secretly giving bonuses to upper management).
But God sees everything. Even when one person works hard and tries to do the right thing with no visible reward, God sees. And God rewards accordingly: “…every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour…” It’s not easy putting others first all of the time, worrying about children, wanting to do the right thing, trying to help people in need whether it’s a homeless student shivering in the streets of Newark, NJ during a blizzard or a distraught woman in a doctor’s office who needs a hug from a stranger. There is no reward…no earthly reward…for having the empathy to reach out a hand and home to that student or hug that stranger and listen to her problems. Most people would walk by, oblivious to the needs of those people. It’s easier. Believe me. Helping others, putting them first, is hard labour.
But, when I’m feeling despondent and weary, I reflect on this verse: “…every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour…”
God sees the person whose labour is laziness and not hard work. He sees those people who blame others for their problems. God sees those people who complain about their situation in life but are not willing to do a little extra to rise above. God sees those people who skirt responsibility and cut corners, whether with school work, chores, relationships, or life in general. God sees those people who blame the school system, teacher, employer, parent, spouse, employee, or someone else for the problems in his or her life.
God sees. And God rewards accordingly.
It’s hard to do the right thing. Sometimes I question whether I should throw in the towel, forget the right thing and do the easiest thing (which is usually the wrong thing). I’ve done it before. I’m not perfect. And for that, I apologize. But I know better. Whether my reward is here on earth or not, I have no choice but to make the hard decisions and stand by them. And hopefully, just hopefully, that man who shook his hands at me on Dickson Mill Road thought back on his nasty gesture and felt bad. Maybe he apologized to God for being irritable and taking it out on a stranger.
As for me, I’ll continue extending a ear to the weeping woman in the waiting room or helping people in need, regardless of how much easier it would be to simply turn my back and walk away. I’ll accept responsibility for my contribution to problems in my life rather than look for scapegoats. And I’ll continue to enforce consequences when I have to, refusing to enable others, especially when it impacts the lives of those people I choose to include in my life. After all, I have to live with myself and, more importantly, the knowledge that God sees everything…